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Picture Framing Hardware

Do it yourself picture framing advice - choosing the right items and materials

nice picture framesHere's an easy guide to the following pieces of picture framing hardware:

  1. The matte
  2. The frame
  3. The glass
  4. Framing corners/tape
  5. The backing board

I've outlined some of the crucial practical and aesthetic considerations to help you on your way to succussful do it yourself picture framing!

1. The Matte

Aesthetic considerations: framing parts illustration

The matte is a card, or foam, that sits between the photograph and the glass. So it is like an inner frame. Its colour sets off the picture, enhancing or perhaps distracting from it.

To prevent distracting from the shot, a good rule of thumb is to keep the colours neutral: white for black and white photos, cream for colour photos. Sometimes a specific colour that matches a dominant colour in the picture can work too.

Don't be stingy with the size of border! A thin border rarely assists the appearance of a photograph. Art galleries almost always use the matte to create space between the image and the frame, drawing the eye into the picture rather than towards fussy lines around the edge. But, as always, trust your own eye.

Whether cutting it yourself (with a sharp knife) or asking someone at the store to do so, don't place the window (hole through which the picture behind is seen) in the centre of the matte. For a more balanced effect make the bottom margin about 1/4 larger than the top.

Practical considerations:

You must use a matte because it prevents the photograph from sticking to the glass when condensation inevitably builds up. Without a matte this can also cause mold or mildew to appear - bad news!

It's worth spending slightly more on a matte made from acid-free, or archival, material (the same is true for most bits of picture framing hardware).

This prevents it from developing a brown tinge over time as it is exposed to UV light, which can actually spread on to the photograph itself. Generally, going for discount framing kit of poor quality will end up costing more as it comes to need replacing.

2. The Frame

As with the matte, it's a good idea to choose a frame that complements the photo. This is more important than finding one to complement the nearest sofa or colour of the wall. The frame you choose really impacts the overall effect.

Often a simple black frame is the best choice for a black and white picture. It may seem boring, but if the image is strong and surrounded by a large white matte border, the result is very striking. A black frame could be metal, plastic, painted or lacquered wood.

Wooden frames are often a safe bet, easily complementing the picture as well as the surrounding space. Colourful frames are great too, usually working better than a colourful matte. Typically colour frames are wooden with a lacquer finish. Lacquer is a coloured varnish which can dry to both a glossy and dulled finish.

When choosing small photo frames for little snaps of friends and family, fabric photo frames sometimes have quite cool designs and can be a good option.

Framing photos is made easier by the fact that frames are manufactured to fit the standard 'A' sizes of paper (A4... etc). Their outside measurements will be slightly larger than a sheet of 'A' paper, whilst the inside ones will be a bit smaller.

If your picture has been cropped to an unusual size you may need to buy picture framing hardware made to a custom size (if you can't adjust the size of matte to compensate), which specialist framing stores can easily provide. The frame, mounting board, matte and glass will need to be specially measured.

Here's a nice selection of clean, simple frames:

3. The Glass

The glass is obviously really important part of picture framing hardware because it protects your photo. But what about when the potential damage is from light? That's not a problem, luckily, because you can ask for UV resistant glass.

This will filter out UV radiation from light coming in through the windows, which could otherwise cause bad fading of the picture.

If it is indoor lighting that is your chief concern, and the glare that it produces when reflecting off glass, be sure to ask for non-reflective glass, which ensures pictures are clear to see at all times.

Is it likely you'll be moving your framed photograph around a fair bit? Back and forth from College or can't help chopping and changing? Perspex (sometimes called acryllic) is a good option for your picture framing. Perspex scratches easier - so be careful - but glass breaks much easier which is a lot worse.

Perspex is also lighter than glass, so is preferable and safer when framing photos of a large size.


Find Inspiration!

Stuck for ideas? These magazines will fill your head with plans for framing and arranging pictures!

House Beautiful

Country Living



4. Double Sided Tape and Self-Adhesive Mounting / Framing Corners

mounting cornerI like using mounting / framing corners for mypicture framing. Unlike glue or adhesive spray (not wise anyway because they often react with the photograph causing damage), framing corners make it easy to remove a photo from its mount and frame should you decide to display it differently.

A framing corner is a little acrylic, acid free (be sure this is the case) triangle, which forms a pouch into which each corner of the print is slotted. They have adhesive backs, securing the picture to the mounting board.

Some people like framing corners because, if you are not able to print your photo with borders, they prevent damage to the image which is certainly caused by glue/spray, and partially by tape.

I would recommend, though, printing pictures with a large enough white border so that the whole of it can be seen when the matte is placed on top, and no damage whatsoever is done. (Adhesive spray is still sold in picture framing hardware stores - but really is no good at all, so steer well clear).

If using self-adhesive tape, be sure it is acid free to prevent causing damage to your photo (which will spread), and double sided. It is every bit as simple as framing corners.


5. The Mounting / Backing Board

The mounting board forms a solid back to your framed picture, securing it in place, protecting it from damage and ensuring that mounting boardit cannot crease. Typically this board is made from wood pulp or cotton fibre and, you guessed it, should always be acid free.

It's also worth checking that it is pH neutral and has not been treated with alkali, as some are, to strengthen the board; photographs can react badly to both acid and alkali.


6. Hanging Materials

These vary slightly according to the frame you are using. Essentially just nails, screws and wire. I will show you how to hang the picture in the second half of this picture framing guide.


That's pretty much it - the main bits of picture framing hardware you'll need. Time to talk you through putting it all together with a step-by-step picture framing guide.

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What kinds of picture framing hardware have you used for framing your work? Share your photography opinions, ideas, reviews and stories. Plus, upload your best shots!

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